- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Not once in his 38 years, Alvin Ray says, did it occur to him to wear the red, white and blue of his country much less raise Old Glory at his home in Petworth, a black neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
But there it is a perfectly uncreased 8-foot-high, 4-foot-wide beauty that seems big enough to wrap his small gray home like a Christmas present.
There is no doubting Mr. Ray's sense of citizenship and duty he is a Washington police officer, after all. But putting out a flag? As a black person seeing the flag through the lens of slavery and discrimination, he had to think. Still, up it went.
"I'm not a 'rah-rah USA USA' kind of guy," said Mr. Ray. "But since Tuesday, I've felt violated. They attacked us here at home."
"It looks nice here," he said, gripping the flag. "And it makes a statement."
Americans everywhere are raising Old Glory, but they don't all mean the same thing when they do.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks brought people together in grief, fear and anger and honoring those who died is the basic aim of the people hoisting the flag.
"Every time I do it, I consider what it represents," says Mario Vega, who cried when he lowered the flag to half-staff in front of the Harvest Time Church in north Houston shortly after the attacks.
But there are other thoughts, too. Baby boomers recall protests during the Vietnam era when flags, along with draft cards, burned. Some raise the flag to say thanks to a loved one. Some are commemorating a personal loss.
The flag's meaning is in the eye of the beholder, said John Bodnar, chairman of the Indiana University history department and specialist on patriotism and its symbols. The peacenik and the warmonger, standing side by side, can wave the same flag and hold diametrically opposed views of the world, Mr. Bodnar said.
"For some people, the flag expresses a desire for a safe and secure home," he said. "For others, it's a plea for peace, and still others can view a flag display as a command to go out and destroy evil in the world."
The simple act of raising the flag, performed millions of times across the country in the wake of the attacks, has put the Stars and Stripes up on front porches, in apartment windows, atop car antennas, on jacket lapels.
But it's not such a simple act, the flag-raisers will tell you.
Putting out a tattered flag from her third-story San Francisco apartment window clashed, in Margaret Schultz's mind, with the pacifist, left-leaning political fires that she said burn deep within her.
"I would see myself lighting candles, and going to a march or a gathering, or giving money, but not a flag," said Miss Schultz, a 37-year-old management consultant. "Because again, I equate usually the flag as being blindly supporting the president or military."
But Miss Schultz decided with her roommate and boyfriend to hang Old Glory just the same.
Brought up by a Jewish atheist psychiatrist mother and a Methodist documentary filmmaker father in New York City, Miss Schultz said she fears for her adopted brother in Atlanta, who is black and has converted to Islam. His name alone, Shakir Taleb-din Schultz, is a testimony to the American melting pot.
Miss Schultz still harbors some misgivings about the message her flag might send to neighbors and friends. But she shoves them aside. She hopes those who know her understand.
"I don't want to put the flag up in a nationalist way, but more in a global way. To say, 'We're OK, we're together on this.' I think the flag it doesn't usually represent peace, but it can. A place united."
A cotton flag, folded in a triangle, sat at the bottom of Joe Curran's chest for the past 25 years. Now the flag, passed down to Mr. Curran from his godparents, is being called into service.
This past week, Mr. Curran, a 38-year-old Desert Storm veteran, nailed it to the front of his Warner, N.H., barn with a mix of anger, pain and sorrow, but mostly pride in the nation.
Warner, a town established in 1774, sent men to fight in the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. The terrorists' assault on America is mobilizing people again, Mr. Curran said.

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